By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
READING - When Robert "Bo" Bemmes is sworn in Thursday as mayor, he'll be standing on grounds steeped in his family's history.
The site of his inauguration, the Valley Youth Organization Haffey Fieldhouse, is near the house where he and his five siblings grew up and near the site of his great-grandfather's house, which was torn down about 30 years ago.
"I used to go back into those fields when I was young and get in all kinds of trouble. Now I'm going back there and getting into more trouble," he said.
Bemmes, who has been a city councilman for four years, defeated two other candidates in the November election. He succeeds Earl Schmidt, a Democrat who is retiring after nine years as mayor.
Bemmes says the toughest challenge in his first year as mayor will be to keep the city in stable financial condition.
Like many small cities whose economy had been based on heavy manufacturing businesses, Reading has struggled financially in recent years.
In the past two years, Reading has used some of its $4 million in electric utilities bonds funds to help balance the budget. But Bemmes said the city must find other ways.
"Most of that money is gone," he said. "We can't rely on that money much longer to make our budget whole."
He promises to trim the city budget as much as possible - "especially middle-management salaries" - before giving serious consideration to any proposal that would raise taxes.
Despite the immediate financial challenges, Bemmes is optimistic about Reading's economic future. Two major reasons fueling his optimism are the Reading Road streetscape project that's just gotten under way and the University of Cincinnati's new Genome Research Institute in Reading, which received $9 million from Gov. Bob Taft's Third Frontier program.
The streetscape project will help revive the city's business district, Bemmes said. The state grant to the Genome Research Institute, at the former Marion Merrill Dow site, could create 400 to 500 jobs.
"If we can just make it through this next year," he said, "we're going to be in good shape."
Cincinnati al-Qaida cell hypothetical
Mary Miller Fund helping the needy
TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Traffic tie-ups take hold
Columbia Tusculum redo planned
Checkpoint nets DUIs, seat-belt scofflaws, gun
HMO numbers down in Ohio
Minister reaches out to others with his rare illness
Deerfield may bill for ambulance
Learning down on the farm
College admissions exams to bolster writing sections
They wrap for weeks to help homeless network
New mayor is Reading-bred
Clermont road swap in works
Man faces charge as firework burns baby
Police, firefighters to vote on reductions
Milford considers street connection
Herman 'HD' Lamont Dunn, began business
Karl Kleve, 90, was collector of cars